The start of conference play has brought about some surprising results in the MAAC. Thanks to the unpredictable results, there is plenty of movement from last week’s rankings, including a new top team.
It’s still a small sample size and things can change quickly, but for now let’s recap the week that was in the MAAC and where things may be headed from here. Once again, all teams are listed in my personal unofficial Power Ranking order.
Keep in mind the league is up for grabs more than any year in recent memory. With no clear frontrunner, I predict both my rankings and the official standings to remain volatile throughout the year.
1) Canisius (8-7, 2-0 MAAC) – 77-76 W vs. Rider (12/29); 85-78 W vs. Iona (12/31)
Canisius became the first MAAC team to earn two conference wins, and in the process jumps to the top spot in this week’s rankings. The Golden Griffins have won four in a row overall as they have hit their best stride at the turn of the calendar.
Jermaine Crumpton has shot 47.4% from the field and averages 22.0 ppg in league play while freshman Takal Molson pieced together a pair of tremendous performances with 18 points and 12 rebounds against Rider followed by a 21 point, nine rebound outing against Iona. Against Rider, Molson became the first freshman in program history to post a double-double in his first MAAC contest.
For the season, Canisius has been one of the top teams inside the arc, converting at a 59.5% rate inside the arc. Although their perimeter offense hasn’t been as volatile, the Griffs’ three-point defense (32.0%) ranks among the top 60 in Division I according to KenPom.com. Through its first two league games, Canisius has held Rider and Iona to a combined 11-36 (31.0%) from behind the arc.
While aspects of the Golden Griffins’ play have been great, they have also benefitted from opponents’ struggles at the free throw line. The Broncs and Gaels combined to make just 31-55 (56.4%) of their free throws against Canisius.
2) Rider (8-6, 1-1 MAAC) – 77-76 L @ Canisius (12/29); 99-76 W @ Niagara (12/31)
Rider was edged by Canisius to start league play, but turned that disappointment into motivation in a throttling of Niagara two days later. The Broncs held the MAAC’s leading scorer Matt Scott to just five points on 0-9 shooting while converting a season-high 52% of their own attempts.
Free throw shooting remains an issue for Kevin Baggett’s squad as the Broncs have converted just 32-56 (57.1%) of attempts from the line over their last two games. Rider leads the league in most offensive categories including effective field goal percentage (53.4%), but its poor free throw shooting ranks dead last by over 10 percentage points.
Rookie of the Year frontrunner Jordan Allen (15.2 ppg) ended three-game skid of single digits with 18 at Niagara. The outburst was his highest total since scoring 28 at Providence on November 29. Meanwhile, sophomore point guard Stevie Jordan put up seven assists in both league games and has done so in each of his last four overall.
3) Iona (7-7, 1-1 MAAC) – 98-93 W (OT) @ Niagara (12/29); 85-78 L @ Canisius (12/31)
Iona opened MAAC play with a victory for the seventh time in eight seasons under head coach Tim Cluess, as the Gaels earned a gritty overtime victory at prospective league contender Niagara.
Forwards T.K. Edogi and Roland Griffin combined for 32 points and 27 rebounds against the Purple Eagles as the duo has done an admirable job filling the paint after the graduation of all-league talent Jordan Washington from last year’s squad.
The three-ball has been uncharacteristically absent from Iona’s repertoire thus far, as the team has converted just 30.6% of attempts behind the arc. Point guard Rickey McGill is one of the culprits with a 2-10 mark from distance, but the junior has averaged 18.5 ppg to start MAAC play.
The Gaels have played just two home games this season, but will receive a welcome return home this Friday against Saint Peter’s. That contest will kick off a stretch of four in a row which Iona will play in the friendly confines of New Rochelle.
4) Manhattan (7-7, 2-0 MAAC) – 61-58 W vs. Fairfield (12/30); 101-96 W (OT) @ Marist (1/2)
The Jaspers trailed by 12 at halftime and did not lead until 1:11 remaining in regulation against Marist, but fought back to force overtime where they outscored the Red Foxes 21-16 to improve to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2013-14’s NCAA Tournament team.
The frontcourt has been the story thus far as forwards Zane Waterman (23) and Pauly Paulicap (19) each poured in a season high in points at Marist. Through two games Paulicap is shooting 70% from the field while Waterman gets it done at 52.4%. Each is averaging 17.5ppg and over eight rebounds per game in MAAC play.
Ibrahima Diallo, a 6-foot-10 forward transfer from Rutgers joined the squad prior to the game against Fairfield with immediate eligibility for the remainder of this season and all of next year. Diallo saw his first action at Marist, where he scored four points and corralled a pair of rebounds in five minutes of play.
The Jaspers will travel to Monmouth this Friday before hosting Rider on Sunday.
5) Niagara (7-8, 0-2 MAAC) – 98-93 L (OT) vs. Iona (12/29); 99-76 L vs. Rider (12/31)
The Purple Eagles have not gotten out to the start they’d imagined as they fell to both Iona and Rider at home to fall to 0-2 in league play for the first time since 2011-12.
Niagara has lived by the three-ball this season, converting on 36.5% of its attempts, but that has been flipped on its head to start conference play. Over two games, the Purple Eagles are just 12-49 (24.5%) from behind the arc, the worst mark in the MAAC.
Leading scorer and conference Player of the Year frontrunner Matt Scott was held in check by Rider, going without a field goal for the first time since December 30, 2015 at St. Bonaventure. Scott finished with just five points against the Broncs, his lowest total of the season.
Poor shooting by both Scott and Kahlil Dukes was a major factor in the team’s league-opening loss against Iona. Scott and Dukes combined to shoot just 15-47 (32.0%) from the field and 2-17 from three-point range against the Gaels.
On the bright side, Marvin Prochet has been great thus far. The junior forward notched 16 points and 15 rebounds against Iona, then followed it up with a 21 point performance on 7-11 shooting against Rider. Prochet has turned up his play of late, scoring in double figures in each of his last five games and shooting 59.1% from the field over that span.
Niagara will have a great opportunity to rebound this week with road contests at Siena and Marist.
6) Quinnipiac (5-9, 2-0 MAAC) – 78-76 W vs. Monmouth (12/28); 71-70 W @ Siena (1/1)
The Bobcats became one of the first teams in the nation to pick up a win in 2018 as Abdulai Bundu’s block of Ahsante Shivers in the waning seconds preserved Quinnipiac’s lead over Siena and moved the Bobcats to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2008-09, when they played in the Northeast Conference.
Quinnipiac has certainly lived on the edge this season, as eight of its games thus far have been decided by two or fewer points. The Bobcats are 5-3 in those games, consequently means their largest margin of victory this season is just two points.
Senior guard Cam Young is averaging 23.0 ppg over his first two MAAC games this season, and currently ranks fifth in the MAAC with 16.9 ppg after playing just eight minutes all of last season. Against Siena, Young missed his first free throw, then made 15 in a row.
The freshmen class stepped up in Quinnipiac’s league-opening win over Monmouth as Jacob Rigoni knocked down six of seven shots from long distance while Rich Kelly dished out 11 assists to lead the Bobcats past their longtime NEC rival for the first time since 2015.
Of note: senior forward Chaise Daniels returned to the lineup against Siena after a three game personal leave. Daniels came off the bench to score six points and played 17 minutes in the win.
7) Saint Peter’s (7-6, 1-1 MAAC) – 70-61 L @ Fairfield (12/28); 77-64 W vs. Monmouth (12/31)
The Peacocks got a breakout game from freshman Elijah Gonzales (16 points, four steals) and shot a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line, but committed 18 turnovers in their loss at Fairfield. The turnovers were the most by Saint Peter’s since coughing up 21 to Canisius last February.
Saint Peter’s then put together a stronger fundamental effort against in-state rival Monmouth, which lost Micah Seaborn to an ankle issue shortly after halftime. Nnamdi Enechionyia put through a season-high 15 points while Gonzales dished out five assists and the team was again stellar (26-29) from the charity stripe.
The Peacocks’ astronomic 92.7% conversion rate at the free throw line is far and away the best of any team during MAAC play. Quinnipiac stands second at 77.1%. However, Saint Peter’s is shooting just 40.6% from inside the arc, the lowest mark in the league, and uncharacteristically has the second-worst effective field goal percentage defense (53.1%) in the league.
Saint Peter’s will face stern test to begin the weekend with a visit to New Rochelle to take on Iona on Friday.
8) Monmouth (4-10, 0-2 MAAC) – 78-76 L @ Quinnipiac (12/28); 77-64 L @ Saint Peter’s (12/31)
Monmouth had been the class of the MAAC for the last two seasons, but the Hawks’ most recent loss at Saint Peter’s has dropped the team to 0-2 in league play for the first time since 2013-14.
Inside the arc, the Hawks’ defense has been great (42.9%), but on the perimeter their defense has been one of the worst in the conference. Monmouth allowed 13 threes to Quinnipiac in the league opener, the fourth time this season King Rice’s squad has let up that many three-pointers. The Hawks are allowing 42.3% of three-pointers to fall through two games and have sent their opponents to the line a combined 51 times.
Micah Seaborn led the way in each game with 14 points against Quinnipiac and 16 at Saint Peter’s, but played just 20 minutes against the Peacocks before sustaining an ankle injury. Seaborn’s status is uncertain ahead of Monmouth’s game against Manhattan this Friday, but the road ahead will be tough even if the star guard is able to suit up.
9) Fairfield (6-7, 1-1 MAAC) – 70-61 W vs. Saint Peter’s (12/28); 61-58 L @ Manhattan (12/30)
The Stags have held each of their opponents to 61 points, but exit the first week of league play with a split. Fairfield’s biggest issue remains perimeter scoring. The Stags knocked down 11 three-pointers against Saint Peter’s, but are a combined 16-53 (30.2%) from long range in league play and have shot just 30.9% from behind the arc this season.
As has become customary, Tyler Nelson led the way in scoring in each game with 19 and 15 against Saint Peter’s and Manhattan respectively. Through two league games, Nelson is shooting 39.3% from the floor and 31.8% from three-point range. Entering this season, Nelson was a 43.4% shooter with a 38.4% conversion rate behind the arc.
Head coach Sydney Johnson is confident the team’s shooting woes will sort themselves out, but for now Fairfield’s active defense is putting the pressure on opponents. The Stags’ defensive turnover percentage (27.5%), steal percentage (13.7%), and defensive efficiency (93.2) during conference play are all tops in the MAAC.
Fairfield will face a stern test over the next two weeks as it plays three of its next four on the road. The Stags travel to Rider this Friday before heading to Iona over the weekend.
10) Marist (3-11, 1-1 MAAC) – 63-58 W vs. Siena (12/29); 101-96 L (OT) vs. Manhattan (1/2)
Marist opened the conference season with a win over geographic rival Siena, in the process holding the Saints to just 32.4% shooting and 4-23 (17.4%) from behind the arc. Brian Parker, David Knudsen, and Ryan Funk have become Mike Maker’s most reliable players, as the trio combined for 48 of the Red Foxes’ 63 points in the victory.
Parker was nearly the hero as the Red Foxes sought to fend off Manhattan late in regulation after leading by 13 midway through the second half. After a pair of Rich Williams free throws allowed the Jaspers to pull even at 77 with 11 seconds remaining, Parker pulled up for a straightaway three to put Marist back in front. However, Aleksandar Dozic bit on a Williams fake at the other end, allowing the senior to knot the game once again with three free throws.
Parker, who has played at an all-league level this season, led all scorers with a career-high 33 points and has finished in double figures in all but one game this season. Knudsen joined in with a personal-best 28 while Funk added 15. Both Funk and Knudsen knocked down five three-pointers.
Of note: Marist has gone to the free throw line 76 times over its first two league games. The team’s free throw rate is an astronomical 76.8 during conference play, but have only converted on 71.1% of those attempts.
11) Siena (4-11, 0-2 MAAC) – 63-58 L @ Marist (12/29); 71-70 L vs. Quinnipiac (1/1)
There’s no hiding the fact that Siena has gotten off to a rough start in league play. The Saints had a dreadful night shooting in the league opener at Marist, hitting just 32.4% of their shots. Adding to their trouble, star guard Nico Clareth has been unusually quiet thus far.
Clareth shot just 2-16 for seven points against the Red Foxes, then took just two shots against Quinnipiac. Clareth’s lone bucket against the Bobcats came late in the second half on a dunk off a steal. The Baltimore native averages 15.1 ppg this season and must get going for Siena to get back in the win column.
Freshman Roman Penn continues to play well at the point guard position and is averaging 15.0 ppg to start league play. Penn’s 19 points against Quinnipiac matched a season high as the freshman added a personal-best six steals.
Evan Fisher broke out with a career high 21 points on 7-11 shooting including a 4-6 mark from long range against Quinnipiac. The junior forward has more than tripled his minutes played this season after the graduation of last year’s talented frontcourt group, and will have an opportunity to carry that shooting stroke into the second week of league play.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.